With over 25 years of entrepreneurial, retail, and technology experience, Michael Eubanks is currently the Senior VP and CIO at the LCBO where he oversees a team of 200-300 employees across 650 stores in Ontario. We recently spoke with Michael about his time at York, advice for students, and his goals for 2020.
Q: Why did you choose to study at York?
A: A combination of a few things. I graduated high school early and there were only two universities that would accept mid-year early entrance – York and UofT. So that was one factor. I applied at both, was accepted at both. The second factor was the program. I came out of high school focused on economics and accounting and I was happy with their [York’s] economics program. And the third factor is I grew up in Thornhill and [York] was close – and I was going to stay in the city for university – so these three factors are why I studied at York.
Q: What was York like when you were a student?
A: I think that back then people would call it a quasi suburban, rural university feel compared to what you would’ve seen at UofT or Ryerson at the time; it was really a suburban feel. Today it feels like a part of Toronto – an extension of Toronto.
Q: What was your experience like at York? Did you enjoy your time?
A: I had a fantastic time at York. From the school, to the lectures, to the work – it was very good, very informative. I met my wife in my second year in one of our (Political Science) lectures. So, there’s lots of great memories from York.
Q: What motivates you?
A: New things, different things, change, multi-tasking. It’s almost, in my view, a sport for me as it relates to having several things on the go – they may not be related but they’re new, different, and challenging. So, all those things personally and professionally get me going. In my career, mostly what I’ve been doing is change transformation and it’s all kind of under that umbrella of getting psyched on things that are challenging, things that are new, things that are different, and things that haven’t been done.
Q: As the Senior VP and CIO at the LCBO – what are your main responsibilities (and that of your team)?
A: We’re a retailer and wholesaler. We retail and wholesale beverage alcohol. In relation to that, my responsibility and my team’s responsibility is to ensure the technology that is supporting the selling and the purchasing of beverage of alcohol works and is seamless. So, I’m responsible for all the technology, retail and wholesale beverage alcohol.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job? What’s the most challenging?
A: I’m in a space in technology that is really transforming the way that we work and what we do. And it’s not just at work. I feel privileged because we’re on the leading edge on a lot of things. What I like is that we are trailblazing but we’re also trying to make sure the basics work – so you’ve got those two polarities at play but they’re very important as it relates to my job and the business. That’s what I like.
I think the most challenging and rewarding part is the need/ability to education. In my role, we try to explain things in layman’s terms, so people understand, support, and feel value with the services we’re providing. It’s a lot of education that we provide to people that may not be technically savvy but need the technology to do their jobs.
Q: Are there any lessons you learned at York that you still used today?
A: Time management and critical thinking. Problem solving is probably another thing that you learn in university. Receiving feedback – whether it’s in a group of peers, professors, advisors – and being able to receive constructive criticisms to benefit you and improve what you do and how you do things.
Q: What advice would you give (professional, life, school) to current York students?
A: In these times, especially in my space, you’re going to have to get comfortable with change overall because things are moving very quickly and what you thought was the right answer today may be the wrong answer tomorrow.
And I’d say this to students that are about to graduate and potentially enter the corporate environment: as long as you’re going to have a superior or a boss, you’re going to have to learn how to adjust and execute. If you do those two things in corporate life – you’ll be successful. You’ll find that as you rise and experience different jobs, there are different leaders and different leader types and their expectations may be different. Your job in supporting them is being able to recognize their needs, adjust to the needs, and execute to their needs. Do those things and you’ll be successful.
Q: Are you a goal-setter? What are some of your personal goals for 2020?
A: My goals don’t change year to year. Enjoy what you’re doing and have fun. Life is short. Cherish the moment. Be present. It’s a lifestyle choice. It’s not a goal setting every year – this is the way I try to take everyday.